What on earth were McLaren doing? The Safety Car was out, Lewis Hamilton was leading and the obvious thing to do was bring him in – along with 95 per cent of the field. But McLaren kept him out.
The theory being that, while everyone else would be full of fuel, particularly the pursuing Felipe Massa, Hamilton could speed into the distance, build up a cushion in ten laps or so, make his stop without losing the lead and then have less distance to run on the softer tyre, which was marginal in terms of performance, but obligatory.
That was the theory.
In practice, the Safety Car stayed out much longer than anticipated, such was the mess created by Timo Glock’s Toyota when the rear suspension appeared to fail as he swept onto the main straight and rammed the pit wall.
This ate into the time Hamilton needed to build up that cushion. Sure enough, when he did stop for fuel and those soft tyres, Hamilton rejoined fifth, with it all to do. McLaren had screwed up.
Well, they would have done but for two things: Hamilton and the MP4-23 were working in perfect harmony (as they had been all weekend) and this was Hockenheim, one of the few circuits where overtaking is possible thanks to the long, wide straight leading into the hairpin at the far end.
Hamilton made good use of it, Heikki Kovalainen helping by letting his team-mate through but Hamilton then dispatched Massa and the second place Renault of Nelson Piquet with a controlled aggression that brought no complaint from either of the Brazilians.
Second place may have fallen into Piquet’s lap when a one-stop strategy – a long shot when you’re 17th on the grid – played perfectly, Piquet making his stop a few seconds before Glock had his accident.
Finding yourself up front is one thing; making the most of it another. Piquet did not put a foot wrong and brought Renault their first podium of 2008. Who would have believed it would have been Piquet and not Fernando Alonso who brought such a desperately needed result for the former champions?
Funny old race, this one. Renault’s tactics worked perfectly. And so, in the end, did McLaren’s. But you did wonder.